We asked a bunch of our writers to answer this question: “How have you improved your writing career?” Our hope was they’d give us inspiring advice to share with other freelance content marketing writers looking to “up” their game–and boy, did they deliver! No matter what you write, how often you write, or how much you write, something’s bound to resonate with you.
Ready to get inspired? Let’s go!
“It all started with confidence in my writing. Once I felt that I was a good writer, based on paid words and positive feedback from clients, I knew I had what it takes to be a professional writer. That confidence helped me pick up orders outside of my skill set so I could expand my abilities. It helped me work with clients I’d otherwise been intimidated by. And the confidence that I am a writer comes through in my writing and boosts my abilities on those days I’m feeling a bit wobbly with my words.” – Miranda B
“Reading makes you a better writer. I say this as a game developer who frequently sees a paradox of other game developers not actually making time to play. It doesn’t matter if you’re strictly writing content, or are writing fiction or columns. Writers need to read! It’s not only inspiring but you get to see different writing styles as well as technical aspects of professional writing. Reading both published authors and online content showed me where I had shortcomings just like how playing other games gave me ideas for mechanics I like and what I’d do differently from a design standpoint.” – Rachel P
Stick with what you know.
“The single best trick that helped me to write more articles quickly, earn more money, and create exciting content that I loved writing was to stick to writing about the topics I was already pretty well versed in, or subjects closely related to them. This alone has saved me so much time that I would have otherwise been spending to learn about entirely new topics. Instead, I now use that time to hone my craft in the verticals in which I’m already experienced and in demand.” – Dina R
Be a tree.
“Accomplish things the way an apple tree accomplishes apples. From a tiny coffee table book of such witticisms, this one has stuck with me, because it’s useful career advice. Writing is best when done at an unforced pace, without regard for perfection, and on multiple fronts at once. Just like the apples. When you take on an assignment, you don’t have to start writing immediately, but read the prompt and start thinking about tone, audience, and message. Write down ideas as they come to you, and let the piece grow into something you’ll be proud of.” – Benjamin C
Get into deep reading.
“The internet has changed so many things, including the way we read and process information. Many people just skim anymore, and much of what we write is geared toward this new way of reading. Taking a book to the sundeck or to the chair in front of the fire for some deep reading is how I reconnect with the part of myself who truly does love language.” – Marta S
Have an anti-mentor.
“I improved my writing by having an anti-mentor. He was supposed to be my mentor, but I quickly found that he had been forced to stop writing for long periods of time because he wasn’t getting enough clients, while I had been working as a writer consistently for 20 years. He was a nice person, but writing-wise he was everything I was trying to avoid. It made me conscious of my efforts, and made me work harder to stay in the freelance writing field. And for that I’m thankful to him every day.” – Michelle S
“This isn’t going to be the most popular answer. What’s helped me most to develop a style, a sense of language, and the grit to stick with it is curating fear. Like other would-be scriveners, I spent too much time hanging around college towns, trying to be part of hip culture – talking about the novels I intended to write. The difference between me and the other Kerouac imitators was I willing to take risks. I actually wanted to write. The answer has been to refuse non-writing job opportunities. I had no choice. I had to grow literary wings, or become liquid decoration at the foot of a cliff.” – DL M
(Really) know your audience.
“You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: know your audience. But I say go deeper than demographics or personas. Knowing stats and trends are great, but until you get in there and really know your unique customer you are just skimming the surface. Read their comments on your blog and social media, take their feedback to heart. Create content that speaks to them even if keyword popularity doesn’t always match up. Yes, still use your hard-hitting keyword, SEO rich content, but give your customers some content that speaks just to them. – Stephanie M
Create relationships wherever you go.
“Relationships have been the key to my success. I’ve learned that every interaction can teach me something, and I try to carry those lessons forward as I progress with my writing career. I get to know my clients as well as possible. Communication is the key; any time I have a question or need clarification, I reach out immediately. I also thank clients for great experiences and invite them to send me more assignments when I enjoyed the work. Other writers and the WriterAccess Help Desk have provided key insights and assistance when I needed guidance.” – Kristin B
“Want to write? Read. Learn from what you take in and make it your own. This theory comes courtesy of Paul Collins, a man of many words. When not chairing the English department at PSU, chatting up NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” or running the eponymous Collins Library imprint for McSweeney’s Books, Collins publishes witty non-fiction, such as Banvard’s Folly, Sixpence House, Not Even Wrong, and Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living. Read everything. Savor vintage classics and contemporary masterpieces. Consider the sacred and the profane. Deconstruct ransom notes for their power of persuasion and listen to Hamilton’s libretto for the purity of its lyricism. Peruse the mainstream, the marginalized. Contemplate the back of cereal boxes. Fandango with the written word.” – London R
“Do not let my PhD fool you, I am nothing spectacular when it comes to writing. My writing has improved over the years in similar fashion to most other people’s, rejection and failure. If I had a dollar for every rejected piece of writing I submitted to persnickety editors over the years, well you know the rest. Do not be afraid to fail, do not fear rejection, and ultimately keep persevering. As the old cliche says, the end justifies the means. Failure, and constant failure at that, is the only way to eventually succeed.” – Jason D